COLUMN: England gives twist to higher education

It's that time of year again when students are hard pressed to figure out how to spend another semester... that's right, it's schedule time.

Hopefully by now everyone has made the call to the REGS line, walked their bubble sheet form through the Registrar's office or got on-line and made their choices.

I don't really know why it is, but every semester it seems to get harder and harder to figure out exactly what I should or can take on my hopeful path to graduation. Perhaps it's due to my ever-changing minors or my wavering decisions within my major -- whatever the cause, I'm glad it's over for now.

Being in England for these past two months, I've really come to appreciate the American collegiate system. Having enjoyed the opportunity to visit both Oxford and Cambridge Universities I can say the differences in education over here are astounding.

First off, semesters in England are only eight weeks long, or what the Brits refer to as "short and thick" whereas American terms are 16 weeks and referred to as "long and thin."

The main reason British terms are "short and thick" is due to the fact that they only study the area of their chosen major. So, for eight weeks they take one course and call it a day.

It's really quite peculiar for me, especially since I am so accustomed to the core curriculum or electives which stateside schools pride themselves on.

The idea being that when we leave school we will not only know a lot in the area we majored in, but little tid-bits from numerous other disciplines. It's what I refer to as a cocktail party education. With some hope when I get older I will retain some of the miscellaneous information I have learned from my five years at BSU (like the gestation period of an elephant) and will be able to spout it off when it comes up in small talk. That's the idea at least.

British scholars on the other hand are the exact opposite. Basically they are super geniuses in their field and the rest they have to pick up at their own leisure.

Personally, although the core classes can be tedious at times, I can't imagine college without them. Some of my most interesting and entertaining classes have been ones that are nowhere near the realm of photojournalism.

I will give English schools this though, the students are there basically because they want to be there and learn, which is a toss up in the US.

In the UK a student gets a full education in just three years, whereas in the US it seems to be a rarity if a student can graduate in under five years. Although, it seems like more American students at least give college a try. In the UK many students never pursue anything past a high school diploma. Again though, the ones that do go at it full speed ahead.

Another big difference between the systems, is England's apparent lack of extracurricular activities. At BSU we pride ourselves on having over 300 clubs and organizations to take part in.

At Oxford and Cambridge that didn't seem to be the sentiment at all. The biggest distraction from studying seemed to be the rowing team. This is not to say that they don't have them at all, but they definitely don't play+â-èas big of a role as they do at home.

Any way you slice it, there are pros and cons to both systems -- I'm just more accustomed to ours.

So until next time kiddies, hit those books.

Write to Angela at


More from The Daily

This Week's Digital Issue

Loading Recent Classifieds...